Genre Science Fiction Publisher Eggplant Productions Year Published 2005 Review Posted on 10/12/2005 Reviewer Rating
Aliens and AIs, by Lawrence M. Schoen
Reviewed by David A. Olson
If you've read this book, why not
Aliens and AIs is a collection of seven science fiction stories, some old and some new. It starts off with a new tale about a card game where cheating is encouraged against an alien telepath. The stories get weirder from there, covering such ground as a machine that makes multilingual puns, aliens that use the Heimlich maneuver for reasons that have nothing to do with choking, and other aliens that think humans are too disgusting to talk to.
Lawrence M. Schoen has a love for language that shows in each story, which perhaps isn't surprising considering he was a professor of psycholinguistics for ten years and directed the Klingon Language Institute. Here's a few tasty tidbits dished out in this collection:
"There is something ethereal about an electronic book... In preparing this manuscript I found myself...conversing with family members who linger in memory... On the off chance that any of my ethereal relations want something to read, this book is for them."
The puns were in Urdu and Ebo, Japanese and Javanese, English and Ethiopian.
"The Clarkeson said the homunculus wasn't an autonomous A.I."
"Well, technically it isn't. It's a autonomous A.Y."
"A.Y.?" I said.
Although this collection was a delight to read, some of the stories didn't feel completely fleshed out. Only three ("The Matter at Hand," "Bidding the Walrus," and "Pidgin") had a full plot. The others were great ideas and well-written, but weren't much more than that. The conflict was sometimes missing; at other times there was no protagonist to take action.
There are a couple other parts of this collection that I should mention. The introduction by Mark W. Tiedemann is an intriguing discussion on how science fiction doesn't need the antagonist to be a person (or alien), illustrating the point with a story from his youth about liquid nitrogen and some nearly missing fingers. Rachael Mayo's cover art collects all of the stories together at a dinner table in a fascinating way that I had a hard time looking away from. If you have the chance to buy a hard copy of this book, I can heartily recommend it for the cover art alone.
If you like creative and quirky science fiction written with a lust for the English language, you'll undoubtably love Aliens and AIs.